NHL Fantasy Hockey Player Comparables: Shea Weber
Welcome to Player Comparables, a chance to embrace the past in fantasy hockey while living in the present. Each article will take a present-day player and pit him up against the player from the past that is his best match or comparable, according to numberFire analytics (you can see comparable players on each player page).
The goal here is simple: take a player, compare him to his top historical match, and analyze their similarities and differences.
In the inaugural installment of Player Comparables, Shea Weber is put on the chopping block. He fits the criteria of a well-known defenseman that is coveted in fantasy hockey -- Weber’s high volume of ice time coupled with a howitzer of a slap shot as the top guy on the Nashville Predator’s blue line play in to his value. The arrival of new head coach Peter Laviolette has given a traditionally dormant offense new life. Weber remains a steady point producer.
Weber’s top comparable, according to our algorithms, is Philippe Boucher circa 2006. Boucher was also known for his consistent play while contributing to a high-scoring Dallas Stars offense.
The present-day Predators and 2006 Stars experienced change. Laviolette’s arrival and new rules following the 2004-05 NHL Lockout opened play for offenses. The two changes did their job. Dallas scored 265 goals in 82 games while Nashville is projected to score 249.64 goals. The Predators scored 216 in 2013-14.
Below is the collective per game stats of Shea Weber and Philippe Boucher.
As you can see, numberFire’s similar player calculations don’t lie, as Weber and Boucher is a 94.13% match as of January 21st. There is one discrepancy though: Fantasy value.
Value over replacement player (VORP) is a truer measure of fantasy value as opposed to straight fantasy points, as it adjusts fantasy point production based on position eligibility and position scarcity. So what would make Weber more valuable than Boucher, and is that enough to hypothetically want Weber on your team over Boucher?
Shea Weber is the unquestioned leader of the defensive corps in Nashville. His defensive partner, Roman Josi, has only three fewer goals and two fewer points than Weber, but has a VORP of 6.42. That’s a significant drop-off.
Philippe Boucher was the second-highest scoring defenseman on his team, trailing Sergei Zubov’s 71 points. In 2005-06, Zubov’s VORP was 8.60. That puts him closer in value to Weber than Boucher could have imagined. So what gives?
Well, to fully understand the value of the present day defenseman, a simple task was done. A little bit of searching revealed that scoring is down since the first lockout of the new millennium. When play started again in 2005-06, new rules were put in place to open up the ice and encourage scoring. An extra 0.98 goals were scored per game from the previous season (2003-04), as game scoring went from 5.03 goals per game to 6.01. It was the biggest increase in a decade. Since 2005-06, scoring has decreased. The 2014-15 season is seeing an average of 5.33 goals per contest.
This explains why Weber's more of a fantasy asset in 2015 than Boucher was way back when, despite similar numbers: the NHL isn't the same game, and Weber, versus his position, is more valuable.